Just in time for Christmas shopping…
Two books in one…
Released into the wild…
Happy Publication Day to the FLIP ME YOU CHOOSE books.
Do authors ever reach the point of being blasé about their careers?
Oh yes, I’ve just had another book published and I’m off on tour again. It’s all so very tiring and inconvenient.
Will I ever get to that point? I certainly hope not. I still get so excited every time a new book is released (I hold it and stare at it and marvel that it has my name on the cover) and I’m thrilled about going on tour.
Last week I spent three days on a book tour in Sydney and surrounding areas, promoting my YOU CHOOSE series. I visited six schools and some bookstores. It was HEAPS of fun. I got to meet so many enthusiastic, creative kids and their wonderful teachers. Two of the schools were in the Blue Mountains, so I also had the opportunity to stop off for lunch with the amazing Evie from Megalong Books at the lookout from which one can gaze at the Three Sisters.
And to top off the tour experience, I got this wonderful FaceBook review from Kel Butler, who came along to one of my school talks with her son…
Just saw George Ivanoff speak and was he ever entertaining! I just sat back and watched as he thoroughly engaged a room full of kids with the magic of storytelling. He practically performed a book he created WITH the kids and of course they ate it up. I’m pretty sure every single child in that room left a big fan if they weren’t one already. I really am so impressed with kids’ authors in this country. We are blessed with some of the best.
Ingredients: 34 authors and illustrators; 300+ students; 40 shortlisted children’s books; 4 awards; and, most importantly, cake. It’s a recipe for heaps of FUN!
On Tuesday 27 October 2015, a whole bunch of authors and illustrators went along to a celebration of Aussie books that was attended by over 300 students. The location was Sacré Cœur in Glen Iris, the event was the 2015 YABBA Ceremony. BTW… YABBA stands for Young Australians Best Book Awards (just in case you were wondering).
This year’s awards ceremony was pretty special as it marked YABBA’s 30th Birthday. Of course, there was cake… a really BIG cake. Yum! And a glorious light-up sign — perfect for pic posing!
For me, the whole thing was particularly special as it was the first time one of my books had made it onto the shortlist. You Choose: The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove was in the “Fiction for Younger Readers” category. And guess what? I won!
Wow! I won a YABBA! I’m still in shock… but it’s an excited and honoured shock. What makes this set of annual awards so special is that the books are nominated by kids. And then voted on by kids. These are the books that they actually love reading. And that’s pretty awesome!
A BIG heartfelt thank you to all the kids who have read my books, who nominated The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove and who voted for it. You have made my year!
HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to the other winners — Aaron Blabey for Pig the Pug; Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton for The 52-Storey Treehouse; and Tristan Bancks for Two Wolves — and to all those who were nominated. It was one hell of a shortlist.
This event was also special for me because I got the chance to publically thank three authors who have had an impact on my career. During a Q&A session, I was asked if I had any writing mentors or authors who inspired me. Yes, indeed! Carol Wilkinson is a long-time friend and extraordinary writer, and each time I read one of her books I am inspired. Paul Collins has published me, encouraged me, given me advice and inspired me with the sheer volume of his writing. (I joked about how I wanted to be Paul Collins when I grew up.) Hazel Edwards is one of the most generous authors I have ever met — generous with her time, her advice and her encouragement. It was particularly wonderful to have those three authors present.
Finally, to finish off this rather thank you filled post… thank you to the YABBA organisers for running the awards each year and for promoting Australian books and authors. You people do amazing work!
Since March I’ve been sitting on some news. I’ve been desperate to shout it from the rooftops, but I’ve had to wait until my publisher was ready to announce it. Well, that time has arrived. I can finally reveal the project I’ve been working on is a new series of kids books about the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). These books are fiction — adventure stories set in remote parts of Australia — but feature the activities of Australia’s real-life RFDS. The first two books will be published by Random House Australia in February 2016, with a further two later in the year.
The first book, Remote Rescue, is all finished. The second book, Emergency Echo, is currently going through the editing process. And I’m busily working away on book three.
The lovely cover illustrations are by Maria Pena, an artist who’s done a lot of storyboard illustrating. Check out her website to see more of her work.
The RFDS books have been quite a change for me from the You Choose series. Single story adventures, they are much more based in reality. So there’s been a lot of research regarding locations, the activities of the RFDS and medical procedures.
These books are also different in that they are not entirely my own creation. With the You Choose books, and the Gamers trilogy before that, I came up with the idea and pitched it to the publisher. With the RFDS books, Random House initiated the series in a deal with the RFDS, then I was asked if I’d be interested in writing them. Interested? Of course I was!
It’s funny how things work out. I was first contacted about these RFDS books about a week and half before my family and I were due to set off on our Outback Adventure, driving all the way from Melbourne to Uluru and back. The timing could not have been more perfect. Our holiday was able to double as a research trip for me. I investigated potential locations and took LOTS of reference photos. I’ve ended up setting the first book in the South Australian ghost town of Farina, and the third book in Coober Pedy. [Incidentally, book two is set in Mount Magnet, a West Australian town I visited a couple of years ago on another trip.]
The Outback Adventure also gave me the chance to stop off at the RFDS base in Port Augusta. Operations manager Phil Moran was kind enough to give me and my family a tour of the facility and answer my barrage of questions, even though it was early on a Sunday morning. I even got to climb aboard an RFDS plane. That visit was the perfect start to this writing adventure.
This project has also been a good excuse for me to buy and watch the old Flying Doctors mini-series made back in the 1980s by Crawford Productions — a series that, despite a certain 1980s quaintness, holds up rather well as a quality piece of Australian drama.
I’m past the halfway point of this project, and I have been enjoying it immensely. I can’t wait for the books to actually hit the shelves!
I got to spend a weekend hanging out at a convention with Lani Tupu (Captain Crais from Farscape), Paul Eiding (man of a thousand voices, including Max Tennyson from Ben 10), Tom Taylor (author of comics such as The Deep and Injustice: Gods Among Us) and a bunch of other comic book creators. Way cool!
Oh yeah… I was also a guest at this convention along with the aforementioned famous people. I’m still coming to terms with that… I was a guest at the same event as a bunch of really famous people. So there I was trying to keep a cool calm professional exterior as I squee-ed on the inside. Well, that was the plan. Not sure I succeeded.
What was the convention? I hear you ask. Sugar City Con! It was held at the Mackay Showgrounds in Queensland. It was a well-run event that ticked over like clockwork, organised by the nicest bunch of people you could possibly imagine. [Waves to Craig, Toni-Lee, Grant, Mark, Peter, Luke, Sharon, Ben and the others.]
I had a BLAST! Seriously… an absolute BLAST!
Now, I should probably point out that I didn’t spend the entire weekend stalking the other guests. I did perform some guestly duties as well. I did a Q&A session hosted by the wonderfully well-informed Sharon M Johnston, who must have done some deep digging in cyberspace to come up with some of her questions. Chatting after the session, we discovered that we had been published together in an anthology a few years ago — Basics of Life, published by the Australian Literature Review in 2011. It’s a small world!
I also conducted a writing workshop for kids, signed heaps of books and posed for lots of photos in my TARDIS jacket (my presence was actually redundant… it was the jacket people wanted to photograph!).
A HUGE thank you to the organisers of this event for inviting me. ‘Twas such an honour!
And now for some pics…
And for those of you who may have missed my earlier posts, here’s the cheesy vid I made to promote my participation…
Oh, and the outtakes…
Book Week (and the weeks surrounding it) tends to be a busy time for kids’ authors in Australia. Lots of talking about BOOKS! And, of course, the opportunity to meet readers. Great fun!
Thank you to all the schools and libraries that have hosted me over the last couple of months. The enthusiasm of kids who love reading is what I love most about being a kids’ author. And I consider it a privilege to work with schools in encouraging this love of reading.
I’m doing a happy dance! Why? Because I’ve got two bits of exciting YOU CHOOSE news to announce today. Whether these morsels of info are as thrilling for you as they are for me remains to be seen… but I’m pretty over the moon about them. So, here goes…
YOU CHOOSE Books 1-4 will be released in two special Flip Me! editions in December — just in time for Christmas shopping. The first will contain The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove and Mayhem at Magic School, and the second will have Maze of Doom and The Haunting of Spook House. I used to love this style of two-in-one book as a kid — reading one story, then flipping it over to read the next. Very cool!
And now for announcement two…
[insert another drumroll… oh, what the hey… let’s throw in a fanfare as well]
There will be another two YOU CHOOSE books in 2016. I’ve been given the go-ahead to write Books 9 and 10 in the series. I am so excited about this, that I am bouncing up and down in my seat and I can barely keep my fingers on the keyboard as I’m typing.
I’ve got working titles and brief synopses all ready to go. But I can’t write them just yet, as I’m working on another series at the moment. I can’t tell you much about this other series, except that I’m working on it now, as it hasn’t been officially announced. But the second I’ve finished with it, I’ll be working on YOU CHOOSE 9 and 10.
Gloriously busy times ahead! Bring it on!
To celebrate I baked a Soufflé Cheesecake. Okay… so it may have fallen apart when I took it out of the cake dish, but it still tasted YUM!
I made it yesterday, so that it would be ready to have with my cup of coffee this morning. [I may have had a test piece yesterday… just to make sure it was okay, of course.]
And so as I sit in my office, coffee in one hand, fork-full of cake in the other, my latest work-in-progress spread out on the desk in front of me… I imagine these two books sitting on shelves across the country, eagerly awaiting someone to pick them up and read them. I feel very fortunate to be in this position.
Now, go away and let me eat my cake.
Okay… so I’ve been a die-hard, nerdy/geeky fanboy for a lot longer than I’ve been a professional author. Way before my first book hit the shelves in 1999, I was attending sci-fi conventions, joining fan clubs and dressing up in costume. I wrote appalling Doctor Who fan fic (bashed out on a manual typewriter) and drew even worse fan art.
So when my fanboyishness (is there even such a word) finally gets the opportunity to collide with my pro-authorishness (I definitely know there is no such word), I know I’m headed for a whole lot of AWESOME FUN!
I’ve been invited as a guest to Sugar City Con in Mackay (Qld). It’s going to be held over the weekend of 29/30 August at the Mackay Showgrounds.
I’m a little overwhelmed at being included amongst their amazing lineup of guests, which include US voice-over actor Paul Eiding (Ben 10, Transformers), comic book artist and writer Becky Cloonan (Gotham Academy, Swamp Thing) and New York Times bestselling author, playwright and screenwriter Tom Taylor (Star Wars Blood Ties: Boba Fett is Dead). But as a big Farscape fan I’m most excited about meeting Lani Tupu, who played Captain Crais, as well as providing the voice of Pilot.
The organizers of Sugar City Con (or SCC, to those in the know) asked me to put together a little intro vid to help with event promotion. So, of course, the first thing I did was rifle through my costume cupboard to pull out a whole batch of convention outfits I’ve worn over the years. Here’s the super-cheesy result…
Shooting the vid was heaps of fun… although I did almost choke on that toy mouse. Don’t believe me? Check out the outtakes…
And yes, I know… I’ve misspelled my own name in the video titles. But it’s a compilation of outtakes — so that mistake actually seems rather appropriate. In fact, it was deliberate. No really… honestly… I did it on purpose.
Anyway… I am counting down the days to Sugar City Con. It’s gonna be a BLAST!
What am I talking about?
I was lucky enough to spend three days at this wonderful festival, organised by Immanuel Lutheran College in conjunction with The University of the Sunshine Coast.
Although there were public events either side, the main part of the festival was the two student days. Kids from surrounding schools descended upon the grounds of The University of the Sunshine Coast, ready to immerse themselves in the world of reading and writing. Each day, students attended four sessions of talks and workshops, choosing from the many authors and illustrators in attendance. Each day I presented two talks and conducted one workshop.
Having arrived on the Sunshine Coast the day before the school sessions started — albeit a little over an hour late (thank you Jetstar) — I was able to attend two sessions presented by author/illustrator Mark Wilson at the Noosaville Library. This was part of the festival’s additional public events. His first session was a talk to grown-ups about his approach to illustrating. His second session was a drawing workshop with kids. Mark is such a natural storyteller — his tales of war and courage, history and family, people and endangered animals were mesmerizing. He had both adults and children hanging on his every word.
The first day of the festival proper, had both primary and secondary students in attendance. I presented a talk about writing stuff-ups to the secondary students, and a more general talk to the primary students — focusing on my transition from reluctant reader to avid reader, and how that related to my current series of books, YOU CHOOSE. And I conducted a workshop about character development for the high school kids.
The second day was exclusively for primary students. I presented two sessions of my primary talk and conducted an Introduction to Writing workshop.
All of the sessions went so well. The students were engaged and excited; they were enthusiastic and creative; they were a joy to speak to.
Each day I had one free session, so I took the opportunity to see other presenters strut their stuff. On the first day I went to hear Sean Williams speak about his writing experiences. Witty and entertaining, he kept his large audience completely enthralled. When, towards the end of his session, he announced that the audience was going to help him plan a story out on the whiteboard, I froze. I had intended the same interactive exercise for my sessions. Immediately I feared that any student attending Sean’s presentation and then coming to one of mine would assume that I was just stealing his ideas. But I breathed a sigh of relief as Sean began… approaching the exercise in a completely different way from me. He and his audience ended up with a serial killer comedy called “The Ex-ecution” — a wronged girl seeks revenge upon her ex-boyfriend, but unfortunately she ends up killing lots of other people instead. Meanwhile the boy accidentally kills himself, thus depriving her of the satisfaction of revenge. ’Twas a bestseller in the making!
On the second day, I sat in on Oliver Pommavanh’s writing workshop. It was one of the most entertaining workshop’s I’ve ever seen. Oliver taught his students how to lie and how to get away with murder — all in the name of literature. Oh, and he shot at his students with a fart gun. The session was an inspired mix of writing tips, writing exercises and standup comedy.
The festival was officially launched by Clive Palmer at a dinner on the first night. Mr Palmer spoke with great passion about the importance of literature and education.
The evening continued with more speakers. Lorelei Vashti and Benjamin Law, both published authors and former Immanuel Lutheran College students, exchanged some amusing banter and got thing off to a wonderful start.
Then poet and rapper Charlie Thomson (AKA The Educator) performed thought-provoking rhymes, where he not only defended the relevance of Shakespeare to modern audiences, but also managed to slip in some wonderful pop culture references — including one of my favourite 80s films The Boy Who Could Fly.
Finally, Sean Williams took to the podium to deliver an impassioned speech about the dangers of literature — an addictive pastime seducing our youth away from far more worthwhile pursuits. Perhaps one of the most insidious dangers Sean described, was the potential progression from user (reader) to supplier (author). A brilliantly witty speech.
The festival ended for me on a somewhat rushed note. I had ten minutes from the end of my last session to make it to the connecting bus that would get me to the airport. I made it to the bus on time. I got to the airport with lots of time to spare. And then my flight was delayed (thanks again, Jetstar).
There was a tense moment at the airport when my shoulder bag had to go through the x-ray machine a second time… and then came the request to search it. The x-ray had showed up a suspicious looking object in the contents. Smiles, laughter and bad jokes ensued when the search revealed my toy sonic screwdriver.
“Why are you flying?” asked one security guard. “Shouldn’t you be in your TARDIS?”
“Yeah,” added the second guard, “and where’s K9?”
I love that Doctor Who has become such an ingrained part of our pop culture that random strangers can instantly identify a sonic screwdriver and know what a TARDIS is.
Many thanks to the festival organisers for inviting me to be part of Voices on the Coast. It was an extraordinary experience and I am honoured to have been included amongst such a talented bunch of literary creators. And congratulations to everyone who worked on the festival. You Sunshine Coast people certainly know how to throw one heck of a great lit fest!
And now, here are some random pics…
IDW Publishing in the US is releasing three volumes of short stories based on the television series The X-Files. These anthologies are being edited by New York Time best-selling author Jonathan Maberry. The first book, Trust No One, is set for release on 28 July 2015. Volumes two and three will follow in 2016.
Why am I telling you this?
Well, firstly I’m a bit of a fan of The X-Files and I love short stories. Having the two combined is pretty cool, and I am very much looking forward to reading them.
Secondly, I’ve written a story for volume three. Titled “An Eye For An Eye”, it’s set during the first season of the series.
Writing for a franchise like this is both an exciting and scary thing. Exciting, because I finally get to play in a sandbox that I have admired from afar. Scary, because there is such an excellent body of work to attempt to fit into.
The fear came first. Would I be able to write something that lives up to the legacy of the series and the expectations of other fans? I overcame this fear with research.
Getting the opportunity to write this story gave me the excuse to go out and buy the series on DVD (hooray for tax deductable expenses). I then binge-watched the entire first season to remind myself of the characters, their nuances and their world. It was a fascinating experience. I had forgotten about Mulder’s obsession with slides. He was always showing slides to Scully. And there was more humour than I remembered. The banter between Scully and Mulder was dry and witty and priceless. Immersing myself in season one was invaluable… it dispelled the fear and engaged the excitement.
I loved writing this story so much.
But now the excitement has worn off and the fear has returned. I wrote this story in December 2014, but publication is still a fair distance away in 2016. And I can’t help worrying about things going wrong. What if my story isn’t good enough? What if the anthology gets cancelled? What if my story gets dropped? What if? What if?
A writer’s life is full of uncertainties. And doubts. And fears. In the larger scheme of my writing career, this story is a small thing. But my fanboy nature can’t keep it in perspective. As a fan, this experience is such a BIG THING! So I will have difficulty sleeping, I will fret and I will doubt until I actually hold that anthology in my hands some time in 2016.
And then I shall be excited all over again.
Lots of lovely reviews have been floating around about the YOU CHOOSE books, so I thought I’d share some recent ones here on my blog.
I’ll start with my favorite review. From the Weekend Advocate in NSW, it focuses on nostalgia …
The ReadPlus website has published reviews of quite a number of my books. The latest review from Sue Warren is for the two current YOU CHOOSE titles, Alien Invaders from Beyond the Stars and Night of the Creepy Carnival…
“George has cleverly taken all the great aspects of gaming and transformed them into book form where readers can challenge themselves to achieve the end goal. While primarily aimed at Middle Primary to Upper Primary these can be enjoyed by readers of all ages and certainly, if you have readers who struggle these would be a superb choice as the level of engagement and the appeal of the subject matter are perfect.”
Earlier this year ReadPlus also published a review by Barbara Braxton of the two previous titles, Maze of Doom and The Haunting of Spook House. This review focuses on the potential educational aspects of the books…
“The appeal and importance of gaming within the formal education setting is becoming the focus of a lot of research and literature and this series provides a great foundation to actively engage and explore options.”
“As well as offering an engaging read, skilled teachers could use these books as models for an absorbing, integrated project that would draw in their writers, their illustrators, their mathematicians, their computer experts, and their gamers to create something new that accentuates the need for a team, encourages negotiation and compromise as well as the skills of seeing things from another perspective and looking for alternatives, and perhaps, even, the concept of empathy.”
And it concludes with:
“So glad this format is back on the reading agenda of the younger readers in my life.”
There have also been some lovely comments on social media. On FaceBook, Rochelle Llewelyn Nicholls said:
“I read the seminal Choose Your Own Adventure books while at school in the 80s. Your books have brought those wonderful concepts back into vogue with the kids at the library where I work now. Some of them read nothing else! George, your books have been a crucial part of our strategy to engage kids aged 8-12 and tempt them away from digital distractions back to good old print books. The interactive nature of the books makes them great for group reading sessions and they are just scary enough for the kids to think they are cool.”
And finally, there’s this video review from Hillcrest Christian College, for the two upcoming YOU CHOOSE books, Super Sports Spectacular and Trapped in the Games Grid — it’s on their FaceBook page.